Phil Blankenship of Amoeba Records continues to bring his brand of fun to various showings at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles. This past Friday (June 5th, 2009), he presented a triple feature for horror fans with “Friday the 13th Parts IV, V, & VI.” The fourth film is known as “The Final Chapter,” and seeing that title on the screen induced uncontrollable laughter in every member of the audience including myself. “A New Beginning” remains the most pathetic of all the sequels in the franchise, and rightfully so. “Jason Lives,” on the other hand, is one of the series’ best films thanks in large part to the great sense of humor the filmmakers brought to it. Everything after that turned out to be completely stupid and unintentionally hilarious with a few exceptions. Indeed, these three movies represented the franchise at its peak as well as its eventual downward slope. None of the “Friday the 13th” movies have ever been great, so to say that they went on a downward spiral seems somewhat redundant.
Interestingly enough, these three sequels are now known as the Tommy Jarvis trilogy in this endless franchise. We first meet young Tommy Jarvis in Part IV, played by a very young Corey Feldman. Tommy spends his time playing on his computer, or indulging in his real hobby of making masks. Part IV ends with Tommy butchering Jason Voorhees to death over and over again. In Part V, we see an older Tommy (now played by John Shepherd) having to deal with the psychological damage that his attack on Jason brought on his fragile psyche. In Part VI, Tommy (played in this one by Thom Matthews) ends up accidentally bringing Jason back to life and has to take him down once again. Does he? Stupid question.
Phil Blankenship ended up giving the crowd an additional treat by bringing the writer-director of “Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives,” Tom McLoughlin, out to talk with the audience about the making of it. Before he started taking questions from the audience, Tom started off by saying how glad he was to be here at New Beverly Cinema as he got all of his film education here. Tom also said that he still had the most fun as a filmmaker shooting this movie, and that he has actually not seen a print of it since it was originally released back in 1986.
When he first got hired to direct Part VI, Tom admitted that the only “Friday the 13th” movie he had seen previously was Part I. As a result, the powers that be at Paramount forced him to watch the other four films that came after it. With “Jason Lives,” Tom said that he chose to completely ignore the events of Part V as that movie “really pissed me off.” The fans that made it out that night agreed with him and applauded him loudly at his mention of this.
In the movie, McLoughlin said that he had originally planned to introduce Jason’s father, Elias Voorhees, into the franchise to give the iconic slasher more of a back story. We all know about his crazy mother who was the killer in the first movie, but nothing really was ever said about Jason’s poppa. But Paramount Pictures was not all that hyped on this plot element because they weren’t sure what direction the franchise would end up taking, so they ended up saying no to it (this actually happened very early on). “Jason Lives” is about to be reissued soon on DVD, and it is going to have the film’s original ending with Jason’s father in the form of storyboards. This will be interesting to witness having now heard about this.
One of the fans asked Tom how he managed to get Alice Cooper to contribute some songs for this movie. As it turns out, Alice is actually a big fan of the “Friday the 13th” movies, so he was more than happy to participate, and he even allowed Tom to use any of his other songs for “Jason Lives.” Cooper gave the movie its end title song of “The Man Behind The Mask,” but Tom said that the original version of that song was much faster.
Phil Blakenship ended up asking Tom the inevitable question of how he dealt with the MPAA in regards to getting the movie its inevitable R rating. As it turns out, the MPAA wanted him to cut not scenes from the movie, but frames. Tom said that these frames did not have blood or gore in them, but the MPAA found them to be just too intense. Even back then, the MPAA was a hypocritical bunch. Heck, when weren’t they? With this movie, Tom made no secret that he wanted to make it into a “huge bloodbath.”
Thom Matthews ended up getting cast as Tommy Jarvis in “Jason Lives,” as McLoughlin wanted someone who would come across as more heroic. Plus, John Shepherd who played Tommy in “A New Beginning” didn’t want to do it because he, as McLoughlin put it, “got all religious.” Shepherd ended up becoming a born again Christian, and his church didn’t feel like a slasher movie would be the best thing for him to do at that point. Matthews does give the character a different look that is much stronger than how he was portrayed in the previous film. In comparison, Shepherd’s Jarvis was a wuss even if he could beat the crap out of those who made fun of them.
With this particular “Friday The 13th” sequel, Tom McLoughlin admitted that he tried to have a sense of humor about it. This becomes apparent almost immediately when you see that the opening title shot is a clever homage to the openings of the James Bond movies. Indeed, you come out of this sequel feeling like McLoughlin actually took the time to work on the script instead of just throwing it all together at the last minute. I especially liked some of the interplay with the kids (this is one of few movies in this franchise that actually had little kids in it) as they have to hide under the beds, leading one boy to ask another:
“So, what were you going to be when you grew up?”
Ron Palillo, who plays Allen Hawes in this movie, is best known for playing Arnold Horshack on “Welcome Back, Kotter.” This got Tom talking about how just about everyone in the city kept calling Ron “Horshack” wherever he went. Looking back, Tom said this made him realize how hard it is for actors to get past a character they played that was so popular. Not all actors can get past those roles which made them so famous to begin with.
Another fan in the audience asked Tom if he had any favorite on-set stories from the making of the movie. This got Tom to talk about a stunt man who came on to the set dressed like he was Evel Knievel, and of how he came up to him and said:
“I’m here to crash something, so what do you want me to do?”
The stunt this man was about to perform a dangerous stunt that required him to drive a big RV (is there any other kind?) over a ramp at 90 miles an hour. Tom recalled this as being the most scared he was on a film set, and he worried endlessly that he this guy would end up getting killed. That is an understandable fear. I mean, who wants to do a movie that ends up becoming known as the one so-and-so died on? No one wants to be remembered that way. Fortunately, the stunt ended up coming out perfectly with the RV crashing on its side the way it was supposed to, and the stuntman dressed like Evel Knievel pulled himself out of the wreckage saying:
“Did I do alright?”
It turns out that there were actually many different endings thought of for “Jason Lives,” but Tom said he had always intended for Jason Voorhees to end up back in Crystal Lake. Some of those endings included the possibility of introducing us to Jason’s father, Elias Voorhees, and he was at one point intended to bring Jason back to life with voodoo magic. In the end, McLoughlin decided to keep it simple and used the image of Jason’s good eye suddenly opening up wide to show the audience that (surprise, surprise, surprise!) implied that he will be back like the Terminator.
C.J. Graham plays Jason Voorhees in this installment of this endless series, and one audience member asked Tom how he got cast in the role. It turns out that there were actually two Jasons in this sequel. The first one was played by Dan Bradley, and he has since become known as the premier stunt coordinator for Hollywood movies, his best work so far has been for the Jason Bourne movies with Matt Damon. The powers that be at Paramount Pictures however, after watching some dailies from the shoot, decided that he should be replaced because they felt that he didn’t have the character’s build. Enter C.J. Graham who had just finished a stint as a United States Marine, and who had no previous acting experience. Tom said that he came onto the set answering all of his questions with “yes sir!” Today, C.J. is a casino manager at the Flamingo in Las Vegas.
When asked what his favorite death in “Jason Lives,” Tom replied that it was when Sheriff Michael Garris got folded in half. I remember this scene from when I watched it years ago on television (yes, when all the good bits were cut out), and I also remember feeling physically uncomfortable witnessing it. Imagining a spinal cord snapping like that is not a pleasant thought. With “Jason Lives,” Tom said he wanted Jason to kill in ways that were “superhuman.” The fact that Jason starts off the movie being struck by lightning makes it seem all the more logical that he would kill people this way. It certainly made for some memorably gruesome moments!
The last question from the audience that evening for Tom was if Paramount asked him to direct another installment of the series, and why that didn’t happen. Tom said that he was actually approached by Frank Mancuso to do the next sequel, and he asked Tom:
“How about Jason vs. Freddy?”
Tom replied to this by saying:
“How about Cheech & Chong vs. Jason?”
It turns out that Tom was later offered the chance to direct “Freddy vs. Jason.” However, Tom said that he didn’t like the script that was given to him. New Line Cinema, which at that point owned the rights to Jason Voorhees, invited him for a meeting to talk about it. In the end, that meeting lasted only ten minutes after which he walked out. Tom has not been involved with the series since then.
Since making “Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives,” Tom McLoughlin has gone on to make movies like “Date With An Angel,” which featured an irresistibly sexy Emmanuelle Béart, to episodes of the “Friday the 13th” television series. Tom later directed one of several Stephen King made for TV movies with “Sometimes They Come Back.” Outside of his contribution to the “Friday the 13th” series, it looks like he has made a good and comfortable career as a director. Having him speak to the fans attending the New Beverly Cinema was a great treat for us all, and he really seemed to enjoy the time he spent with us. Special thanks go out to Phil Blakenship for putting this all together. This particular sequel still remains one of the very best of this series, and Tom’s appearance made sitting through “Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning” all the more bearable.